Technology Bytes ICT’s challenge in Ethiopia

With the theme ‘Digital Ethiopia’ an ICT Expo will be held at the Millenium hall in June this year. Its objectives are to accelerate the use of ICT to attract investors and indentify national investment opportunities. Teshome Worku, Private Sector Information and Technology Director at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, has been working in the field of IT  for over ten years and received his MA in IT and Telecom Engineering  from a university in South Korea. He sat down with Capital’s Tesfaye Getnet to talk about ICT development in the country and how it can improve people’s lives. Excerpts; 

 

Capital: How has ICT expanded in Ethiopia over the last decade?

Teshome Worku: It has been growing rapidly but more needs to be done. There are millions of mobiles available, computers are in private and government institutions, banks have core banking systems, network infrastructure has improved. Lower government offices are using more software to communicate with higher offices. Schools, universities and hospitals are also utilizing more software and technology.

Capital: Who would you say is the main player in ITC here?

Teshome: I would say the government because a majority of the mega investment projects are undertaken by government institutions and these endeavors use software to do many things but the private sector is also using new technology. Banks are the best example and mobile phones are high on the list as people are beginning to use and develop apps.teshome-worku

Capital: How can ICT best spread to rural parts of Ethiopia?

Teshome: In any part of the world urban areas are closer to the latest technology. It takes time for people in the countryside to develop technology by interacting with rural areas. The technology they use tends to be more mobile phones, radio, television and Internet. In the cities it is mostly banks, manufacturing, hotels and other business firms utilizing tech.

Capital: What investment opportunities are available in Ethiopian ICT?

Teshome: Since we have 100 million people here there are a lot of markets and we have an airline that reaches most places in the world so transportation is easy. We need more investment in data, because that is where the global community is heading. We need to make data accessible. That requires a lot of investment in infrastructure. We want to focus on data services, and single out data services that have lucrative investment opportunities, especially in an economy that is market driven, and hungry for innovative but relevant services. As for the highly lucrative fiber optics, there is a lot of room for investment. We need to go get it done and roll it out to all parts of the country.

Capital: What are the major challenges for ICT in Ethiopia?

Teshome: Investors don’t understand just how much interest there is in ICT in the population here, the demand is very high but we are far behind in developing a business model that fits the people’s interest. We are lagging in developing new products and there is low awareness among local investors in understanding the lucrative investment of ICT.
We should encourage people especially staff in the ICT Centre to continue developing their careers and pursue academic lines that are relevant to their field, network with people and gain knowledge and continually adapt to this ever changing field. IT is a very dynamic field and it is important to be open-minded and also learn to adapt or else risk being obsolete in the field. IT staff should also be willing to change with technology and be innovative. They are the agents of change we need in this world. We should also encourage them to be involved in team work; build one another through welfare and other avenues to overcome our challenges in the sector.

Capital: More than 30 universities offer courses in IT how can we encourage more innovation?

Teshome: We need to improve the quality of IT education by adding more practical learning and combine IT knowledge with business courses so that people can understand how to monetize IT products and services. We are working to encourage innovation by supporting IT incubation centers.

Capital: Could you tell us about IT policy revisions?

Teshome: The last update was eight years ago so obviously there are a lot of changes so we have made improvements and we hope that it will soon be ratified by the Council of Ministers.

Capital: A recent report showed that Ethiopian banks are vulnerable to hacking and need more secure software do you know anything about that?

Teshome: Hacking can happen anywhere so we need to be vigilant about how to use software and safety measures.

Capital: Could you tell us about the ICT expo happening on June 28 in Millennium Hall?

Teshome: The theme of the ICT expo is Digital Ethiopia and many international and local companies will participate in it. Its objectives are to accelerate the use of ICT and the uptake of services enabled by the government’s considerable investments in Telecoms and ICT infrastructure, to inform ICT leaders from the government and other stakeholders, to attract investors to indentify national investment opportunities and support the growth of the private sector and to attract international technology solution providers to showcase their products to the Ethiopian market.